Margot Wallström på högnivåmöte om kvinnors roll i fredsprocesser

Tal av utrikesminister Margot Wallström på högnivåmöte om kvinnors roll i fredsprocesser 16 december 2015

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues,

I would like to start by thanking Sven-Eric Söder and the Folke Bernadotte Academy for co-hosting this panel debate on the role of women as mediators and in mediation processes.

I am also happy to see gathered here today a distinguished group of remarkable men and women.

You have all dedicated your professional and personal lives to the promotion of peace.

Your actions remind us that life is about more than self-interest, and that service is about more than self-service. Thank you.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

We stand at a critical moment in time.

Last year, 40 armed conflicts were recorded, up by six from 2013.

This is the highest number of conflicts reported since 1999.

Last year, the escalation of conflicts, coupled with the extreme violence in Syria, resulted in the highest number of battle-related deaths in the post-1989 period.

Conflict and persecution forced an average of 42 500 people a day to leave their homes.

Instead they had to seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their own countries or in other countries.

UN-OCHA now reports that the average length of conflict-induced displacement is an astonishing 17 years.

This means that for many, becoming displaced is a life sentence.

We are also facing a 'conflict trap', whereby 90 per cent of conflicts were initiated in countries that have already experienced war.

The problem with war is not only the difficulty of preventing new conflicts from arising, but also permanently ending the ones that have already started.

This is partly a result of failed peace negotiations. Almost half of all peace agreements fail within five years.


One reason why we are gathered here is because we know that these failures are not a law of nature.

Research and our own experiences clearly demonstrate that women's inclusion and participation is crucial to achieve effective, successful and sustainable peace and development.

Yet even today, in 2015, formal peace and mediation processes have too often failed to effectively engage and meaningfully involve women.

The statistics of the last two decades clearly show the need for change.

Out of 1168 peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2013, only 18 per cent made any reference to women and gender.

From 1992 to 2011, fewer than four per cent of signatories to peace agreements, and only nine per cent of peace negotiators, were women.

And when it comes to chief mediators the figures are extremely low: Only two per cent were women.

Just a month ago, at the talks in Vienna on the conflict in Syria, 18 men and just one woman – HRVP Mogherini – sat at the table.

Quite clearly, reality still offers considerable scope for improvement.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We need to address this issue at all levels and on all platforms.

We need to ensure that ongoing and upcoming processes result in increased support for women's participation in peace processes.

One step we have taken is to task the Folke Bernadotte Academy with establishing a Swedish network of women mediators, which is also part of the Nordic women mediators network.

The objective of this network is clear. We are not only seeking to strengthen our own capabilities and increase the number of Swedish women actively involved in international peace mediation efforts.

More importantly, we also aim to cut across traditional divides and create cooperative networks with other women mediators from around the globe.

There is a symbolism in the fact that this mission has fallen to the Folke Bernadotte Academy. In 1948, Folke Bernadotte himself was appointed as the UN's first mediator in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

So, with both statistics and history as the backdrop, allow me to share three thoughts on why we need a Women Mediators Network.

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Firstly, a successful peace process is not only about ending a conflict.

More importantly it is about building inclusive societies and promoting sustainable peace and development.

That is why women must take part in all decision-making processes at all levels and be active in defining priorities and resource allocation.

This must be the case in times of peace, and in times of war.

Wherever I have travelled in the world, from Ukraine to Colombia to DR Congo, I have met brave women who strive to de-escalate violence and promote initiatives for peace.

These women often work in very dangerous environments where the personal risks are extreme.

Their efforts are commendable and deserve our full support and long-term commitment.

However, these peacebuilding initiatives often receive little visibility and are seldom linked to formal peace processes.

Too often women are excluded from formal peace negotiations and we see all-male teams of experts analysing and defining priorities for peace and security.

This has to change, and I promise to do my part.

I will continue to always meet with women's organisations before the official bilateral programme starts during my travels throughout the world.

* * *

Secondly, many conflicts and peace processes are in need of mediators.

The key is often to provide an acceptable third party who can assist the involved parties in voluntarily reaching a mutually acceptable settlement of issues under dispute.

And recent research shows that there is a positive link between women's effective participation, and the likelihood of peace agreements being both signed and implemented.

However, according to the Global Study on the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, many actors involved in mediation and conflict resolution remain resistant to including women.

One argument often used is that that they are "wary of overloading the process".

I am convinced that our Women Mediators Network will be a tool for change in promoting women's participation and contributing to sustainable peace and security.

And when our Network brings successful change, the arguments about overloading will evaporate.

* * *

Thirdly, the Women Mediators Network can be a platform for sharing experiences and exchanging information on good and bad practices.

The Network will provide a platform where members can support and learn from each other.

It will be a platform of competent women peace mediators. And by promoting powerful women, we will also promote powerful peace.

* * *

To conclude, I want to emphasise that the agenda on women, peace and security is a top priority for the Swedish Government.

We are committed to continuing to promote women's social, political and economic empowerment and to countering narratives that reinforce negative gender roles.

We believe that it is crucial to engage men and boys in this work – to change behaviour and attitudes.

Last month, the Action Plan for Sweden's feminist foreign policy was adopted.

With this Action Plan, the Foreign Service now has a roadmap to work for gender equality and to strengthen women's and girls' rights, representation and resources.

And one of the objectives of our Action Plan is to increase women's participation in peace processes.

For Sweden, the women, peace and security agenda is about promoting something as beautiful and important as political change.

For that to happen it takes committed and proactive political leadership.

We need to act differently to create peaceful and secure societies for all.

It is precisely at times like these – times of crisis and unrest – that we must not hesitate.

We live in a time when your values must be your backbone, which in turn will help you to do what is right.

So let us be persistent in our efforts to strengthen women as agents for peace.

Thank you.